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Obama’s jobs plan: on a wing and a prayer | Editorial

Unlike the doomed deficit reduction debate, this is a plan that the president can go around the country selling

Not for the first time in his presidency, Barack Obama has come out fighting on his jobs plan. Sending the bill to Congress on Monday, Mr Obama urged that there be no games, no politics and no delays. All three await the passage of a 7bn bill which would be funded either by eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy or by savings found by a congressional subcommittee over and above the .2 trillion it has already been tasked to make. His speech to Congress last week was rousing, punchy, combative even.

The measures in the American Jobs Act are somewhat milder: bn in infrastructure spending amounts to a 40th of the amount the administration says the country needs. bn was proposed in spending on schools, a seventh of the amount the American Federation of Teachers says is needed. There are doubts, too, about how many jobs will be generated, although specific requirements have been built into the draft bill to make sure the money is not used by states to fill their budget deficits. Some of the tax cuts for employers may prove ineffective. A 7bn jobs plan is quite small, and – with 14 million people now out of work – it is worth remembering that it has been two years in the making. To get back to the ratio of civilian employment to population enjoyed in 2000, Mr Obama would have to create 18 million jobs.

Politically it looks more astute. Unlike the doomed deficit reduction debate, which put the president in the position of offering compromises before negotiations started, this is a plan that he can go around the country selling. It gives him soundbites and allows him to pose alongside any number of concerned low-paid workers. Many of his proposals, especially the core cuts in payroll taxes, are taken from ideas which Democrats and past generations of Republicans have both accepted. The deep familiarity of the plan thus represents a political challenge to the current generation of Republicans. If they block it, Obama can pose, improbably, as the Washington outsider. He can paint Republican leaders as theologists, more content to keep the faith than to do something practical as politicians to prevent the looming double-dip recession.

The Republican response has thus far been measured, although mixed. The GOP remains eager to work together with the president to support job growth, but laments that these proposals would hurt economic growth. It dislikes new spending on roads, teachers and schools. Mr Obama’s task is clear. It is to make sure that this piece of legislation remains intact, while praying that the unemployment figures start to come down. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds